An interesting example of someone fishing for answers they want to hear (Confirmation Bias)

Recently I was confounded by this share… (Note that there were a lot of replies. I’ve included only some of them; my own require less name and picture blurring.)


Context… once again this is an “atheist versus theist” debate group. The person who made the odd statement that we should not be sad when people die (because it’s natural?) is a theist.

What’s odd here is that he disregarded every comment that explained how we are sad if people we love die because we miss them. He took offense to my comments in particular for some reason, so at least I managed to make him state his case, but it’s a case that doesn’t make sense. (You can’t see because of the way I cut and pasted parts of the conversation via Photoshop, but that long thread at the end starts with him replying to one of my comments that isn’t shown.) He is saying that death is natural and that we (atheists) have accepted that; therefore we should not be sad.

Of course that is a non sequitur. The two statements are unrelated: The premise being accepting death as natural, while the conclusion being a lack of sadness. He must know that the conclusion does not follow from the premise, yet he insists that this is the case for atheists and is not interested in any answer that contradicts this notion. So what’s really going on here? Obviously I am not psychic (and neither is anybody else by the way), but I can make an educated guess as to what his thinking is, even if he doesn’t realize it himself. No, he is not a psychopath…

What’s really going on here is an implicit (and as usual unstated) argument from morality. (Described in detail here and here.) That is, he assumes that all morals come from god – from his religion’s god in particular, which in itself refutes the argument – but he will never see that.

So he is thinking that all atheists lack morals, and empathy, and all that go along with morality, because we have rejected his god-given morality. Therefore we are incapable of feeling sadness… in other words we are all logical “robots” like Mr Spock. Or we are all psychopaths… something to that effect because his straw man of an atheist has no morals and even no humanity without god.

So his post is written only to satisfy his confirmation bias. He will disregard every comment that doesn’t confirm this odd straw man version of atheism, no matter how much sense it makes. This fascinates me because it is an example of confirmation bias taken to an extreme. My comment, and the comments of many others, explain quite clearly why we would be sad to lose loved ones, but he remains unconvinced. Nothing will change his mind. He will learn nothing from this debate. He will only be satisfied when someone writes something that he can reinterpret (that is deliberately misconstrue) to confirm his conception of what it means to be an atheist.

And that fascinates me. There is no way I or anybody else can ever get through to that person. I wonder how many others there are out there just like him?

Also of interest to me is that this is once again an example of someone telling atheists his definition of what atheists are. (Indirectly of course.) He assumes it and wants us to confirm this straw man, but essentially that’s what it comes down to: To him an atheist is a sinner, but more than that, an atheist is someone who has rejected his god-given morals, where all morals come from god, and is therefore incapable of feeling empathy, incapable of feeling sadness or loss, but rather lives by logic alone and is evil and a danger to every god-loving theist out there. And when any atheist says anything that contradicts this strange view, it should be discarded without even a moment of thought.

This theist is in many ways the polar opposite of someone like myself… I rejected all gods because I realized that there is not only a lack of evidence for them – there is plenty of evidence indicating that man created all gods… gods are a by-product of our cultures and are interesting in terms of understanding human development over history. Morals are also a by-product of human culture where a lack thereof would be a disadvantage to survival. To come to my opinions took critical thinking and a willingness to question what I had been taught. (My indoctrination.) My opinions are always fluid and I have changed them drastically over the years, responding to my improved understanding of reality, and this leaves me a perpetual student of life; my worldview is filled with wonder at nature as I grow old and have a better understanding of this amazing place in which we live and the truly astounding animals that we are. Whereas his worldview requires dogmatic belief and unyielding faith, faith that is so rigid it can not be questioned at any cost, even if he must assume that anyone who does not share that belief is inhuman. Moreover, he then “debates” people who do not share his views, but chooses not to engage with them but to present them with his assumptions about what they believe instead. (No irony here. I don’t go to Christian groups and tell them what they believe.) How pitiful it must be, to be such a person, to be incapable of even a solitary, independent, critical thought.


About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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